Across the world the struggle is real if you’re a dark skinned Indian person. If you’re a milky tone or some variation you will most likely not know the true feeling of being non-white in your own race. And this problem of being dark skinned affects South Indians or those of South Indian descent the most.
Tamilians are labeled being dark, black as night, monkey likeness, and inept. Do not be shocked or feel I’ve insulted my heritage because this stereotype is definitively the narrative of persecution and also the reason for genocide and discrimination that Tamils experience. We will touch on this later.
If you know me pretty well enough, you should know I’m a product of both a Muslim and South Indian heritage which gives me the best of both worlds, my mother is dark skinned, dad’s cappuccino and I somehow ended up ‘manja’ (South Indian word for turmeric and description of yellow) in color, well, depends on the amount of time I spend in the sun. Then I could variate from dark chocolate and then back to manja. And I love my color, but what if you don’t, should I care?
It appears that ancient India had a preference for dark skin. It is backed by lot of evidence. For instance, the epitome of male beauty in the Hindu tradition is Lord Krishna who is clearly dark skinned. His name means “The Dark One” (his illustration as “blue skinned” is only a medieval artistic creativity). Lord Rama was also dark skinned and considered very handsome.
Likewise, the gorgeous Draupadi, described as extraordinarily beautiful who could not be surpassed by any other woman during her time in terms of beauty, is also depicted as being very dark. The fondness for dark skin traveled from ancient to the medieval period as well. This fact is well documented by travelers to India in the medieval period.
Marco Polo mentions in his travelogue, The Travel (Translated by R Latham and published by Penguin in 1958) – “For I assure you that the darkest man is here the most highly esteemed and considered better than others who are not so dark. Let me add that in very truth these people portray and depict their gods and their idols black and their devils white as snow.”
Unfortunately, it is not known when the taste changed, but according to the texts it depicts that the ancient Indian viewpoint in terms of aesthetic was way different then how it is today.
“All my life I’ve been ridiculed for being dark skinned. The fair skin obsession in India doubled my self esteem issues as a teenager and I was constantly discriminated against because of my dark skin. The word “kali” (a dark skinned girl) haunted me because it was the word used by most people to mock my skin colour. It reduced my identity to my skin colour and I’ve spent my whole life running away from this word,”
We are prudent and part of the collective proudly Indian narrative when it means can claim the success. Kerishnie Naicker, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Padma Lakshmi, A.R. Rahman, Navi Pillay, Sundar Pichai, Siva Kaneswaran, M. Night Shyamalan, etc. leave the back of your throats as notable Indian figures.
But when it comes to Tamil people, you want nothing to do with this humanity. You mutter the names of Tamil folks and claim they’re ‘acceptable Indian’ when people talk about the cute Aziz Ansari bit they saw on YouTube. This is a problem.
There have been numerous times when one hears, “Tamil people are so dark, but you all are so smart” or “Tamil people are the ugliest of Indians.”
The insinuation that being dark is a negative characteristic, and Tamil people are not worthy of being included in the overall Indian landscape is what is being perpetuated across the world where Indians are concerned.
The mindfuck goes on further where being dark in complexion has been the profit and moneyspinner in a deluge of skin lightening products that have hit the market. And yes people are going at it like dogs on heat due to pressure from family and the mental conditioning one receives from the outside world. Where the fuck does this end?!
There is a massive distinction between Eelam Tamils and Indian Tamils. For those new to everything and never opened a Wikipedia page, Eelam is the alternative state that Tamil people who were born in Sri Lanka take on because Sri Lanka never wanted them.
Sri Lanka is a Sinhalese state that conducted genocide for 26 years and remains discriminatory and violent towards Tamil bodies. There have been numerous instances of rape and other forms of brutal violence and genocide that the Sinhala state has initiated against Tamils.
And you know what the greater community’s response is? Silence. Acquiescence. Not giving a fuck. To you all, I say do better. Don’t conveniently claim right and brilliance and beauty when it benefits and sheds light on your milky Indian identity.
Claim or don’t, but only pick one.
Source inputs: Unfair & Lovely, Mirusha Yogarajah, India Opines, Riyaad Khan